(CNN) — Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said Thursday that he is breaking off relations with Colombia. His decision comes as the Organization of American States meets to discuss Colombian claims that Venezuela is protecting FARC and ELN rebels in its territory.
Chavez said that under President Alvaro Uribe, Colombia has isolated itself and become “aggressive and violent.”
He called Uribe “crazed” and accused the United States of using Uribe as a puppet.
Uribe is in the final month of a presidency that has had many tensions with neighboring Venezuela, mostly over accusations that rebels from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (also known as FARC) and National Liberation Army (ELN) have camps in Venezuela.
Chavez said he hoped for better relations with Colombian President-elect Juan Manuel Santos, who was Uribe’s defense minister and whose election was viewed as an affirmation of Uribe’s policies.
The Venezuelan leader spoke from his presidential palace, where he was holding a news conference with Argentine soccer coach Diego Maradona.
This letter was sent to OAS Secretary-General Jose Miguel Insulza and copied to every OAS member
Organization of American States
1889 F Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20006
Dear Secretary General José Miguel Insulza,
We, the undersigned, wish to express our grave concern regarding the recent attempt by the Uribe Administration to thwart progress in the establishment of a constructive regional dialogue around the internal conflict in Colombia and its impact on neighboring countries. We consider this dialogue – based on mutual trust and respect – to be essential to the construction of a lasting peace in Colombia and to regional stability.
Civil society organizations in the United States and in Latin America, as well as regional bodies including the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), have worked tirelessly to open doors for dialogue and seek a more comprehensive approach to Colombia’s bloody 60 year old civil war. Unfortunately, the Uribe government has focused instead on a policy of increased militarization that has claimed an enormous human and material toll, especially for Colombia’s Afrodescendant and indigenous communities.
The Uribe administration leaves behind it a dismal human rights record that is the direct product of the so-called democratic security policy first implemented in 2003. Along with over 20,000 deaths of combatants, thousands of civilian non-combatants have been killed according to human rights groups. Over 2000 extrajudicial killings allegedly perpetrated by Colombia’s armed forces are currently under investigation by the country’s Prosecutor-General. Meanwhile, the number of internally displaced in Colombia has reached the millions and hundreds of thousands of Colombians have sought exile in neighboring countries.
President Uribe also leaves a sad record in the foreign policy realm given the troubling actions his government has taken in the regional arena and his refusal to consult affected countries before taking these actions. His government’s decision in 2008 to invade and bomb Ecuadoran territory without any regard for that country’s sovereignty led to a regional crisis that continues to have repercussions to this day. His decision in 2009 to sign an agreement with the United States that greatly enhances the US’ military presence in Colombia, has led to further tensions with countries throughout South America that are historically wary of any form of US military build up in the region.
In recent days, President Uribe has once again chosen to provoke a neighbor – in this case Venezuela – rather than engage in much needed dialogue. With his government’s decision to dust off oft-repeated accusations against the Chavez government at a crucial moment of transition that offers a unique opportunity for putting relations with Venezuela on a new path, Uribe has once again demonstrated that he prefers conflict to dialogue.
Father Roy Bourgeois, School of the Americas Watch
Chuck Kaufman, Alliance for Global Justice
Alfred L. Marder, US Peace Council
Gene Bruskin, US Labor Against the War
Medea Benjamin, CODEPINK: Women for Peace
Lisa Fuller, Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador
Dale Sorenson, Marin Inter-Faith Task Force on the Americas
Mark Weisbrot, Center for Economic Policy and Research